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John Lamb, Published April 15 2012

Arts group cultivates visual CSA

A warm spring is making for an early growing season, and The Arts Partnership is looking toward its own bumper crop.

The Fargo-based arts advocacy group is following the model of community-supported agriculture for its latest project, but instead of getting a regular bounty of fruits and vegetables the members will receive original art – ranging from paintings to ceramics – created by local artists.

Fifty shares of the community-supported arts project will go on the market today for $300 apiece, and Dayna Del Val, executive director of The Arts Partnership, expects them to sell fast.

“It’s just such a great idea,” Del Val says. “I’m kind of sad we didn’t come up with it.”

The idea was brought to TAP by board member Erin Koffler, who heard about it from Springboard for the Arts, a St. Paul-based economic and community development organization for artists.

The Twin Cities organization granted TAP approval, but for a price – a whopping $35 for the informational packet.

People who buy the shares will collect their art during upcoming CSA events. At each gathering, the members will receive three pieces of art, along with a wine tasting from Bernie’s Wines and Liquors and catered food from vendors like the Green Market.

The first event is May 8 at the Rourke Art Museum and includes works by painter Emily Williams-Wheeler, a collaboration between two artists at Gallery 4 and the Nordic Art Alliance.

The other pick-up events will be July 10, with works by Carmen Bruhn, Chelsea Thornton and Theatre B and finally on Sept. 11, featuring Ann Arbor Miller, Brad Bachmeier and Northern Plains Botanic Garden Society.

“We have great artists in town, and they stepped up in interesting ways,” Del Val says. “There’s also a nice variety of art. It’s not all framed art.”

Like the edible CSAs, subscribers don’t know what to expect in their regular hauls. Del Val wants to keep the surprise, but says Northern Plains Botanic Garden Society will cast 50 rhubarb leaf platters. Theatre B’s contribution will be some kind of special performance held at a later date.

Del Val says there will be other collectibles given away at each event, and the cloth bags for the art are custom made by Shelly Hurt-Geist, a costumer for the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre.

Participating artists like the opportunity to broaden both their artistic scope and the potential to reach new patrons.

“I’m hoping for visibility and to add new dimension to how people look at me,” says Williams-Wheeler. The Fargo artist may be best known for her colorful paintings, but for this project she is creating a block print.

Chances are the CSA patrons will be looking for more of the artists’ work in the future.

Del Val says in four seasons of Springboard’s visual CSAs, there was repeat patronage for up to 40 percent of participating artists.

“It’s a fun, inventive way to engage in art and bring home art,” Del Val says, adding that she’d like to do it annually.

Even TAP board members are eager to sign up.

“It gives you access to art and doesn’t cost much,” says Beth Fortier, treasurer for The Arts Partnership. “To have some of their stuff at low cost – that appeals to me a lot because I’m always looking at the checkbook.”

And artists aren’t just giving works away. Del Val says each of the nine contributors earned a $1,000 stipend.

“It’s self-sustaining. The costs of the shares cover artists’ stipends, food and drink and the parties and marketing,” Del Val says.

Some artists are already making the most of the opportunity. Photographer

Ann Arbor Miller has a show of photos scheduled at the Green Market for the same time her work goes out in the CSA. The member’s print will be a different image, but in the same vein as her solo show.

“It’s this great reciprocal ripple effect of how various partners see in benefits of this program,” Del Val says.

Who they are

The Community Supported Arts project features five individual artists and four groups.

Here’s a quick look at the artists involved:

Emily Williams-Wheeler: Known for her vibrant paintings, the Fargo artist will tackle block prints for the CSA.

Carmen Bruhn: This Fargo artist has been a main fixture of the local watercolor scene for years.

Chelsea Thornton: A former architecture student, Thornton started Raine Design creating cast-concrete items that can be seen at ecce art + yoga.

Ann Arbor Miller: A former Forum photographer, Arbor Miller has carved out a spot as an in-demand photojournalist.

Brad Bachmeier: A noted teacher, Bachmeier is a prolific ceramicist, frequently showing work at the Rourke Art Museum and Gallery.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

John Lamb at (701) 241-5533